The story of ibanXS – Interview with Hans Vermeijs and Edy Bruinooge

Edy and Hans have known each other for a while now, and in the past year, their history was marked by a new endeavor: ibanXS. Their story is one of courage and forward-thinking, and it is the story of the company they set out to build, together. And who better to tell this story than Edy and Hans?

How did you two meet and what is the history behind your friendship and collaboration?

Edy:  Hans and I met over 15 years ago, when we collaborated for a new payment method in The Netherlands called iDEAL, which is currently the biggest payment method in The Netherlands for e-commerce. We were among the founding fathers and architects of iDEAL: Hans was one of the architects (and later product managers), and I was representing one of the contributing banks. We always had a good energy, and the same vision on how the products needed to grow. In time, we always kept in contact and when PSD2 happened, we found each other again, to recreate what we did with iDEAL 15 years ago, to give access.

Hans:  I think both Edy and I realized that we had very similar personalities and a pragmatic approach, and that we clicked, from the start, so that is why we managed to keep in contact for over 15 years. When ibanXS started to take shape for me, I could not think of a better person to approach than Edy and the expertise he brought to ibanXS was key to the product.

When did you first come up with the idea of ibanXS? Who came up with the idea first and when did you realize it was an idea you had to follow through?

Hans: The idea of ibanXS started to click when PSD2 came into being. I strongly think there was and is a need for this product in the market. However, the idea of having a platform that provides access started earlier, when I was still working for iDEAL. I noticed that, although you have multiple companies in the market offering the same product, in reality, it came out to be only one provider. In time, the same principle will apply to the connections between banks to merchants.

Edy: I already knew that Hans has this idea, even before PSD2. When Hans came to me with the sketches of ibanXS, I realized that what the product needed was someone who can help with the business side, and complement his technical expertise. From there, the rest is history.

For myself, this came at a great moment. I was working as a product manager for a payment service provider, not developing new products but implementing existing products to build a successful proposition. Although it was quite a challenge and very good environment, I missed building a product from scratch, as we did with iDEAL or earlier in my career when we created products such as special bank accounts for the refugees in The Netherlands and for people with no bank accounts or even homeless people.

So when Hans approached me with the idea, it felt like 15 years ago again, but this time, instead of doing it for banks, we were doing it for our own company. Plus, the switch of going from working over 28 years as a product manager in different companies to becoming an entrepreneur with my own company, is a scary, yet enlightening process through it all.

What was the first plan and the first steps, for the launch of ibanXS, in May 2019?

Hans: When you design a product, you have to think about all the aspects. You’re trying to offer a product that is cost effective, with great quality levels and that can answer the right questions. The first step was investigating the market. When PSD2 came into market, I started to look for companies that might be interested in the product itself. I started going to events and tried to find the right companies to pitch the idea with them: imagine there is a way to be connected with banks, any bank you want. Would it be interesting for you to connect with a company like that, that would help you navigate the muddy waters of PSD2? The response was overwhelmingly positive, which confirmed my plan and action points.

This is what I learned over the years, by seeing so many great ideas investing a lot of money to build the product, bring it to market and only to notice there’s not an actual market for it: first try to pinpoint the market, and then build it and bring it to market.

Edy: Another huge step was the series of discussions with our technical lead, Manuel. Even though I do not have a technical background, I understand and anticipate what our client needs and wants. I was able to translate those needs to make the product from a technical perspective, valid to our client. Those first discussions were definitely inspiring, to find such a great interaction within the team, that we could communicate and turn our personal skills into assets for ibanXS.

How did you find the development team that helped you in the process and how was the collaboration with them?

Hans: I was lucky enough to find great and talented people in Barcelona that were interested to join me in building this product. Manuel, our lead developer, was a huge help in this process, and he was involved in the first discussions of our product. We started extremely ambitious, and even had a live transaction in a few months. In time, we realized that the priority is to do the right thing in the right way, and we trusted our developers that they were building us a platform that was smooth and stable. And the fact that one year later, we had our beta release, takes us full circle.

Edy: When we started in May 2019, we invested in the connection between people as well, in having face-to-face meetings with all team members. It was not just discussing the product, because we managed to create a great relationship with the entire team, and we all realized that we are in this for the same goal.

Do you remember the day of your company launch? Or how the reception in the community felt?

Edy: Yes, absolutely. I remember the reception on social media, as well as from my close friends, who congratulated me for the courage of starting something new. And since we are the first who really do PSD2 in The Netherlands, so it was also a huge milestone for the community. The community felt not only supportive, but also open to grant us success, and to help us grow.

Hans: Like it was yesterday. I was flying to Barcelona at Labor Day, May 1st. I arrived late in the city and I remember the beautiful spring evening, perfectly in spirit with the new adventure we had just started. Being able to celebrate it and cheer it with the team, and with the people that embarked with me on this new journey was a marvelous feeling.

What were the biggest milestones for ibanXS in the past year?

Edy: The first one would be September 13th 2019, our first live transaction. It was the moment when we realized we managed to build a product from scratch, with a new team, going from May 1st to September 13th, one day before the deadline for PSD2, to have our first live transaction on our own platform. Why? Because time to market is always a decisive factor. When working for a big company, you do not have the flexibility to steer the development on the right path, and it was a luxury and an accomplishment for us. Also, we were able to celebrate it with an invitation to a national payments podcast here in The Netherlands.

The second milestone is that we started with two people and we grew to a big company, with new team members and valuable partners. We can see that in one year we are more mature, from our website and our offering, and to our people, whom we are grateful to and proud of.

Hans: I believe that another milestone is the technology, and the things we accomplished on the technical side. The fact that we now have our platform live and working smoothly, is a marvelous moment, and we celebrated all the moments that took us here, from December 2019, when we had our first launch, to one week ago, with our automated bank integration report showing first time all tests and services stable and approved.

Another milestone is the people that joined us. We are so happy and proud with our experienced and talented developers. Since our product is a complex one, and the learning curve is quite steep on joining the technical department, we know we have skilled and determined people working on our system.

What would you say were the top three most important things you learned about building a PSD2 product in the past year?

Hans: First of all, I learned a lot about legislation and compliance, which used to be a completely dark area for me, with the help of Alex, our compliance officer. Secondly, I learned more in depth about Java and AWS, two technologies we use, and I was pleasantly surprised by the high level of quality of the components that you can get off the shelf from Amazon.

The third point was organizing our team. In the past I always advocated using SCRUM in all my previous projects, but I learned quite soon that it’s not entirely efficient if you do product development with a small, distributed team.

Due to the complexity, it was very difficult for everyone to have a complete overview of each part of the application. If the task is something new for a developer, then the process to grasp the concept while also delivering within the time estimated for that story is not doable. We realized that we needed to have people that are specialized in different aspects of the product so that everyone in our team has a specialty that, in the end, fits together. Our high talented lead developer Manuel keeps a military control over the development processes and binds the pieces together to make it work.

Edy: First, whether you’re a building a PSD2 platform or if you’re an entrepreneur with your own shop, you have to believe in your product. I really believe that Europe is waiting for our solution, and that customers will benefit from it. The product needs to be genuine and transparent. Secondly, having your own company is a whole different ball game. You need to be true to yourself and believe in yourself.

And last but not least, collaboration will always take you further. The strength of a team is so much better than the strength of a single person, and working together makes us so much better. As I like to say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.